Health and Fitness: Exclusively Inclusive!

Some people simply can’t use a gym … the elderly, those recovering from operations, teenagers, parents with young children.


A brand new community gym, based at Jamesfield Centre, Newburgh, aims to cater for groups of people who are often left out – parents, teenagers and those with chronic health conditions.

Owned by Fitness Instructor and former Fitness Manager Angela Nicholls, The Treehouse and Optimise Health and Fitness comprises a state-of-the-art gym and unique, supervised indoor play area.

Angela said, “Fitness should be accessible and enjoyable for all, whatever the barriers. From parents who want to exercise while their children are cared for nearby, to people with chronic conditions who think they shouldn’t or can’t exercise, we’re here to show them they should, and can!”

With a fully equipped gym and classes offering everything from pilates, yoga and Tai Chi through to BodyPump and Metafit, the facility is aimed at three key audiences, in addition to regular fitness fanatics of course!


When it comes to parents, especially of young children, ‘The Treehouse’ indoor play area has supervised play sessions to allow parents to access the gym and classes while their children are cared for (and tired out!) at the same time.

Angela said, “We asked the designers to come up with something pretty special for The Treehouse. We wanted to avoid the usual soft play environment of children running through tunnels screaming, with no real purpose. We wanted to encourage them to stop, engage and interact with others, become a little bit more absorbed, but also burn off some energy of course!”

With Angela’s own experience of juggling work and children at the fore, there is also a study area for working parents looking to do a little work while their children play, and business information on display for those looking to return to work.


Meanwhile, for teenagers who have grown out of children’s classes but are still too young for standard gyms, the gym is offering classes for 8-12 and 13-16 year olds, family classes and 14+ gym sessions. Even the ‘adult’ classes can be attended from the age of 12!

The gym is also open to those with chronic health conditions who are either afraid to exercise or don’t know how to safely. With many members now being referred by their GP, staff are qualified to prescribe exercise to those suffering from chronic health complaints and can even offer cancer rehabilitation and, uniquely, extended induction programmes to settle everyone in well.

As well we her mission to improve access for all, Angela’s personal motivation was a better work/life balance. She explained, “A huge motivation for me was to be at the school gates for my sons. The fitness industry is notoriously hard, badly paid and demanding and I genuinely felt I could do things better if I did them my way.

“Focusing on people who wouldn’t normally see themselves as candidates for the gym, we’re on a mission to show them that’s not necessarily true and to ease them into it gradually, generating endless physical and mental health benefits. I also want to make life better for fitness instructors who can be very badly looked after in this industry. Indeed, one of my other aims is to become a ‘Living Wage’ provider by 2020.”

So how did it all begin?

Last November, as Angela’s twin boys settled into school, her husband brought her attention to the award-winning Coca-Cola 5by20 Dundee programme, so she got in touch with Angie Foreman, Programme Director and signed up for the ‘FasTRACK to Business Success’ course.

The trailblazing course gave Angela and the other participants the opportunity to be listened to, and to share and learn from each other while increasing their business knowledge and confidence through industry designed and led topics. Each day, they were hosted in-kind by business venues across Dundee, with interactive, practical sessions covering core business topics delivered by industry led business owners and other experts.

Following one week of creative, experiential learning, Angela and her colleagues were tasked with pitching their business needs to a 10-strong support panel of business experts.

Angela said, “When I first started on the Coca-Cola 5by20 programme, the ideas were all in my head and I needed to verbalise them to make it real. It was partly about getting my current thoughts on paper and flipping them round, exploring them from a different angle. The marketing and finance workshops were particularly helpful and, on a personal level, there was a lot of empathy in the room as many women wanted to start businesses which help others, and I liked that positivity.

“The pitch day was nerve-wracking but so worthwhile. I left with advice on sourcing a business loan, which we went on to successfully secure. But there’s much more to the programme than that week alone – there’s an endless amount of support going forwards, lots of networking opportunities and useful workshops. There’s also the online forum which is a great information hub – it’s a great way of sharing advice, tips and asking questions. I don’t think we’d be up and running if it wasn’t for the programme, and I’m so grateful to be involved!”

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